• East Asian cold snap brings coal plant restarts and sends gas prices upward

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

A cold snap across East Asia has led to heightened demand for power for heating and some difficulties in supply chains, as two reports from Reuters have described. In Japan, power prices hit a record high of 120.1 yen (US$1.16/€0.95) per kilowatt-hour as LNG supplies began to run low and coal-fired power plants were operated at maximum capacity. The country’s mothballed nuclear power plants, shut down following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, have meant reduced operational flexibility for the grid, and demand is such that stockpiled LNG is running short. The grid operator has instructed power generators to operate any power units at maximum capacity and send surpluses to the Tokyo and Osaka areas. Similar LNG supply concerns have occurred in China, where Beijing has experienced its coldest temperatures since the 1960s and the eastern port city of Qingdao recorded the lowest temperature in history. Correspondingly historic has been demand for power across a number of northern Chinese grids. In Beijing, the last coal-fired power plant in the city was restarted in anticipation of the cold snap, and heating prices have hit multi-year highs. Around 20 million homes in northern China have converted to fire natural gas rather than coal for heating in recent years, and LNG is in demand across the region, contributing to the high prices, while sea ice and strong winds have meant that shipping has struggled to operate normally (raising questions about reliability that are often asked about renewables). It seems, however, that both Japan and China will manage to cope with the unusually cold conditions.